Message from Tami Miketa, Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office

Tips to Help Defend Your Home from Wildfire

It is simply heartbreaking to think about all of the homes that have been lost due to the devastating wildfires that have occurred in Washington this year. On behalf of me and my staff at the Small Forest Landowner Office, our hearts go out to all the families that have experienced such devastation.

As fire danger continues to escalate, the Department of Natural Resources recently announced a statewide burn ban for all outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands that runs until September 30, 2014. More than 350,000 acres have burned in Washington this year, and more than $91 million has been spent battling those wildfires.

Below are some tips to help you defend your home from wildfire and some ideas about fire-resistant landscaping techniques that can help keep your home safe, especially if you live close to the forest or other open lands.

Steps to Defend Your Home from Wildfire

Homes built in forests should have a minimum defensible space of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local DNR Region Office or fire department/district for additional information.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.

    Before thinning.

    Before thinning.

  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10 foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill – use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; and then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.

    After thinning.

    After thinning.

  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet.
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home’s contents.

Now is also a good time to consider fire-resistant landscaping techniques that can help keep your home safe, especially if you live close to the forest or other open lands. Trees, shrubs, grasses and other vegetation provide fuel for fires. Reducing or even eliminating vegetation close to structures is a way to create defensible space against a wildfire. Fire-resistant landscaping can be both functional and beautiful. Try these tips to help keep your home safe from wildfire this year:

  • Use plants with high moisture content such as deciduous trees/shrubs nearest the buildings.
  • Trim tree branches away from buildings.
  • Keep vegetation, including the lawn low and green.
  • Limb trees at least six feet above the ground to reduce the chances that a fire on the ground will spread into tree tops – this is especially important if your property has lots of trees.
  • Keep decorative ground covers such as beauty bark away from direct contact with your home – bark and wood chip ground covers can smolder.
  • Trim back trees and shrubbery around structures so that fire crews and their vehicles will have safe access in an emergency.

If you’re designing or updating your home’s landscaping, think of ways to incorporate firebreaks (things that don’t burn) into your landscape design. A defensible space doesn’t have to be an eyesore. Some examples of firebreaks are: concrete, brick or gravel walkways, concrete flower box borders or planters, and water features, such as a pond. Even the backyard swimming pool can serve as a firebreak.

Get Firewise

In Washington, numerous communities have received national recognition for their fire prevention efforts through the Firewise Communities USA Program. Many other neighborhoods have completed a wildfire protection plan that can help save lives and property.

We can all do our part to help prevent the spread of these wildfires. For additional tips on how to reduce the risk of wildfire to your home and family, check out the Firewise Toolkit.

Eastern Washington Forest Landowner Cost Share Program

The Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service, are implementing a program to encourage eligible non-federal forest owners to implement practices which improve forest health and reduce the risk from wildfire and bark beetle infestation on forest lands in Eastern Washington. Non-federal owners of forestland in Eastern Washington, who own a total of no more than 5,000 forested acres within the state of Washington, are eligible to participate. For more information call 360-902-1706 or click here to submit an application online.

Our House almost Burned Down

By Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist

This month I have a breathless true story cobbled together from various participants, with lessons and morals throughout. If you live in fire country, pay attention.

On Friday, August 1, 2014 at approximately 1:30 pm, a trailer got a flat tire on Highway 153 near Winthrop. The driver didn’t notice right away and kept driving for a ways. The trailer’s steel rim showered sparks along the road into extremely dry grass and brush, and a fire immediately started.

Unfortunately, the wind was blowing and in a very short time the fire was moving fast and headed northwest, directly towards our house on Rising Eagle Road. It was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We live on a hill, surrounded by scattered ponderosa pines and (before the fire) bunchgrass and considerable mature bitterbrush. Last winter was dry and spring was wet, making for lush growth – not good when combined with a very hot, dry summer.

Bevis's defensible, wet space.

Bevis’s defensible, wet space.

The Carlton Complex had erupted 16 days earlier directly across the valley from us, spreading massive destruction and havoc in our area. It was a true firestorm, at one point moving 30 miles in 7 hours and destroying much forest and property in its path, including parts of Pateros. We weren’t in that fire’s path, but watched it burn across the valley from us for many days. We got ready in case fire came our way with our own Level 1 evacuation preparation. My wife Teri and I worked on our defensible space, weed whacking tall grass, pulling flammable materials away from the house, and running our sprinklers to wet down the lawn and adjacent areas. We worked hardest in the 30 feet closest to the buildings, but we also put a lot of thought into where we could expect a fire to come from and worked on those areas too. Our preparation was integral to what happened next.

When the Rising Eagle Road fire erupted, the local fire district volunteers (Okanogan 6) were on the scene in a few short minutes. Teri was the only one home and she was given about 10 minutes to evacuate. They came up our drive and positioned themselves with hose lays around the perimeter of the house. Ingress and egress are essential elements if firefighters are to defend a structure and we have a wide circular turn around in front of the house that they could use to get out if they had to. I found out later they were forced to make some quick judgment calls as to where they could go, and some firefighters were familiar with our road and the houses up there so they came and defended our house. One neighbor, tucked deep in the pines below, was not so lucky and their house burned to the ground.

When the volunteers arrived, the fire wasn’t quite to our hill, but the smoke was low and thick and visibility was very poor.

Bevis house surrounded by smoke, wood pile burning.

Bevis house surrounded by smoke, wood pile burning.

Hoses were laid and very quickly the fire came roaring across the hill, pushing flames 15 to 20 feet high through the tall bitterbrush (aka “gasoline on a stick”) and torching pine trees in the draw below the house. The firefighters sprayed water on the grassy perimeter around our buildings, on our woodpile (away from the shop but near the perimeter), and all around the house. They tossed away the burnable items we’d missed, like the hollow log tucked next to the house that was, in the description of a firefighter, “burning like a roman candle”. If he hadn’t found it, the siding would have caught fire.   A pile of raspberry clippings were extinguished in a garden bed 10 feet from the house. Four of my honey bee hives, 100 feet from the house, erupted into flames and burned into oblivion. A firefighter blasted them with a hose saving the two tallest hives. Another firefighter told me they had to hold the line because, “if your house went up we were toast. It was a life or death situation”.   The battle raged for 20 to 30 minutes with blinding smoke and the volunteers putting out embers where they found them. The most intense part of the fire front burned past our house in less than 30 minutes, but the hill was still burning after it passed.

The fire was raging to the Northwest and threatening many more homes. The crews were ordered to go to the front of the fire about a mile away and quickly pulled the hoses from our property and moved on. A friend who was at our house fighting the fire described driving his fire truck down through a burning stand of overstocked ponderosa pine on our neighbor’s property, with fire licking the truck on both sides. Our hill was still smoking and burning, but the worst seemed to have passed our house.

We live overlooking the North Cascades Smokejumper base at the Winthrop Airport. There were at least 7 helicopters based there fighting the Carlton Complex, and in a very short time an armada of airships with buckets began fighting the Rising Eagle Road fire. They worked in rotation, filling buckets in the Methow River and dropping on targets all across the fire. The fire reports said that this was a very intense aerial attack due to the number of air ships in the limited space. At one time there were 12 helicopters, two water bombers and the amazing DC10 jet retardant plane attacking this fire. The Rising Eagle Fire was coming directly toward the Twin Lakes neighborhood and the main fire camp for the Carlton Complex and stopping it was imperative.

Skorsky bull's eye drop on wood pile.  Photo: E. Stockton.

Sikorsky bull’s eye drop on wood pile. Photo: E. Stockton.

One of the things we missed during our “fire-proofing” was a box of wood scraps about 20 feet from my shop. Yes, it was too close and it caught on fire, with 6 to -8 foot flames erupting after the ground crew was ordered to leave. Ed Stockard, our neighbor across the valley and about 1.5 miles east, watched in horror as the blaze moved towards the shop, taking photographs with his long lens. Helicopters were working the hill, but missed putting out the box at least 5 times. Then, a big Orange and White Sikorsky S58T scored a bulls eye bucket drop and Ed cheered. Like most shops, ours has chainsaw gas, propane tanks, etc, and if it had gone up, the house would’ve too. Airships continued to work the hill and drop water on hot spots and structures for several hours, helicopters and planes buzzing the smoky air.

I made it to Ed’s house in late afternoon and watched the fire continue to burn avidly across the hill, while the helicopters kept dropping water on the hot spots. We watched in horror as another friend and neighbor’s beautiful woodland custom home burned to the ground. Nearer our house, one full time home, two part time cabins and two garages also burned down. These structures burned completely, leaving only twisted metal and unburnables in the place of people’s work and dreams. All told, ten houses and numerous outbuildings burned down in the Rising Eagle fire, a small portion of the 250,000 plus acres, over 350 homes and numerous outbuildings destroyed in the Carlton Complex.

I came home at midnight with Ed in tow, to a smoky, smoldering hillside, and grabbed the evacuation boxes that Teri hadn’t had time to grab when she evacuated earlier in the day. Ed and I could see three smoking hot spots on the hillside below the house from across the valley and we hunted them down. We buried smoldering pieces of firewood that had been blasted off of the fire pit by helicopter water drops. One was close enough to the remaining dry grass to have been a problem. I couldn’t sleep and returned a few short hours later at dawn, to find our home standing. I looked all around for embers and found two more smoking spots near the house that I doused with buckets of water. I walked the hill shocked at the devastation of our property and neighborhood, and amazed that our house was still standing.

Over the next week days, shifts of firefighters from at least 5 states came across our hill looking for hot spots. The Public Utility District workers immediately started repairing the burned out power lines. And our little forest was a blackened smoking ruin…

But our house still stands in its little green spot. The lessons we learned?

  1. Preparation makes a big difference. Our defensible space land wasn’t perfect, but it existed and gave the firefighters something to work with. We had a green lawn and gravel, wetted ground, flammables were pulled away from the buildings, leaves swept up, we had used flame resistant deck materials, and our sprinklers were running at the most vulnerable side.
  2.  Firefighter access is also huge. Not only was there ingress and egress, but there was a wide turnaround for the fire truck. The shared road below us is wide and graveled, but where it crosses the neighbor’s property it was too thick with trees and we had been planning to enter into a DNR sponsored thinning project later this year. Luckily the fire district decided to come in and fight our fire. Once here, the professionalism of the fire team took over and they worked hard to save the house.
  3. Nearby air support was a very fortunate circumstance. The burning box would have been caught by the local fire fighters in normal circumstances, but the helicopters kept the fire at bay and pushed back hard. If not for the Carlton Complex, no helicopters would have been immediately available, much less 12.
  4. Follow up afterwards was important in preventing an after the fact fire from erupting. Teri and I have continued to work on the fire wise prescription we received after an inspection by Okanogan Conservation District, cutting back brush and trees that could cause problems in another event.
  5. Luck is part of the fire equation. My firefighter friend said that fire is “fickle” and he’s seen it burn places where people did almost everything right. He described a house with excellent defensible space, trees well-spaced back from the house, but with a woodpile stacked against the house on the second floor deck. The woodpile caught fire and was burning out of control when they got there.   The house burned to the ground. We found several small ember burns in vulnerable places around our house afterwards, our Trex decking is marked all over with black burn scars and the patio furniture is full of melted holes, but the house and outbuildings survived. The details matter…..

My wife and I were traumatized by this experience, but we came out ok. It easily could have had a very different outcome. We feel a mix of deep sadness for our friends and neighbors that lost homes and elation that our home was spared. It’s a strange feeling that I never wish to repeat.

I share this story as a witness to Fire Safe. It’s real. If you live in fire country, take steps to prepare for fire. It’s not if fire will burn near you, but when and we need to be ready.

Cultural Resource Protection and Small Forest Landowners

Abandoned privy.

Abandoned privy.

Woodlands provide a home for plants and animals, but they’re also home to the remains of past uses. Whether it’s an old well, homestead, railroad or a Tribal site, these cultural and historical resources on the land tell the story of our past – a past that makes it distinct from other places. Historic and cultural resources provide us with a tangible link to the people and events that shaped our shared history, communities and ourselves.

Most small landowners are willing to identify and protect cultural resources, but may be unaware of how to go about doing so. They may also lack the financial resources to develop an organized and consistent approach to identifying and protecting the sites.

Identification of cultural and historic resources, as well as a plan to protect them should be part of every Forest Stewardship Plan. Both DNR’s stewardship foresters and Washington State University (WSU) Extension foresters can assist private woodland owners with developing plans to protect these resources. Addressing these resources in your Stewardship Plan also helps ensure that your plan meets state and federal laws which protect our cultural and historic resources. To access the state’s searchable database, go to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation or you can contact the office by phone at (360) 586-3065. For more information on the Forest Practices Rules and to find out which Tribes are in your area, contact the Forest Practices staff in your DNR Region Office.

Cedar tree used for bark harvest.  Note the scarring at the top of the photo.

Cedar tree used for bark harvest. Note the scarring at the top of the photo.

One way of learning more is through online workshops and webinars. Two helpful resources are the proceedings of the Quinault Indian Nation and Washington Forest Protection Association sponsored 2012 Cultural Resources Workshop and the American Tree Farm Systems (ATFS) webinar Archeology in Your Woods.

To assist landowners and Tribes in resolving issues when cultural resources arise in the course of forest practices planning and permitting, the Forest Practices Board developed the Cultural Resources Protection and Management Plan (CRPMP). The CRPMP is a non-regulatory, multi-caucus, consensus approach to address protection and management of cultural resources on private and state managed forest lands in Washington. This approach is based on:

  • Increasing communication and mutual respect between landowners and tribes,
  • Developing cooperative processes to protect and manage cultural resources, and
  • Providing educational opportunities to foster trust, commitment, and a common understanding of cultural resources issues relating to forest management.
Ceremonial site.

Ceremonial site.

The content and documents of the CRPMP were developed by the Timber/Fish/Wildlife (TFW) Cultural Resources Roundtable in response to a request from the Forest Practices Board to fulfill the cultural resources commitments in the Forests and Fish Report. The caucuses participating in developing the CRPMP were the Washington Forest Protection Association, Washington Farm Forestry Association, Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, DNR and individual Tribes. The plan “…is a “living” document open to updates and changes to reflect progress, completion of tasks and changes in priorities and direction of the CRPMP.”

Upcoming Events, Workshops and Publications

WorkshopsCalendar

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning – If you own wooded property, our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan for keeping your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.

  • Preston (King County) – Tuesday evenings, starting September 16, 2014.
  • Dayton (Columbia County) – Wednesday evenings, Starting September 10, 2014. Contact Steve McConnell for registration information (509-477-2174, mcconnell@wsu.edu .

Pre-Commercial Thinning – Join the Northwest Natural Resource Group for a workshop and tour examining overstocked stands, thinning slash and management costs.

On-line Classes

Forest Stewardship University offers a complete online education experience, featuring over 20 mini-courses ranging from forest health to taxes.

New Publications

Forestry Education and Assistance for Washington Forest Landowners – A directory of key agencies and contacts for forest owners throughout Washington.

Consulting Foresters Directory – A listing of private consultants that can help you carry out forest management activities.

Small-scale Sawmill Directory – These databases provide a partial listing of sawmills that accept small quantities of logs:

Websites

Forest Seedling Network – An interactive website that connects landowners with seedling providers, forest management services, and contractors.

Women Owning Woodlands – The Women Owning Woodlands web project strives to bring topical, accessible, and current forestry information to woodland owners and forest practitioners through news articles, blogs, events, resources, and personal stories.

Message from Tami Miketa, Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office

Alternate Plans for Family Forests

The authors of the 1999 Forests and Fish Report recognized that the new rules would economically impact landowners, and CMZoldbarsemphasized the use of alternate plans as means of reducing the impacts. Alternate plans are site-specific management strategies that differ from the rules but are designed to result in equal or better public resource protection.

Alternate plans must describe how the proposed management options depart from the rules and how the alternative strategy is as effective as the rule prescription. Plans may be submitted for completion within a 3 to 5 year period as part of a single forest practices application or multiple applications where all the harvest units covered by the applications have similar geographical and environmental characteristics. Some examples where alternate plans may be useful include:

  • Where minor on-the-ground modifications could result in significant operational efficiencies.
  • Where site conditions have created an economically inaccessible management unit under the rules.
  • Where the landowner proposes methods to facilitate landscape, riparian, or stream restoration.

The alternate plan application form requires that landowners provide:

  • A written description of current site conditions, including tree species, height, and age; forest health issues (blowdown, fire damage, disease); and topography.
  • Management goals, proposed activities, how the plan deviates from the rules, and how the plan protects public resources.
  • A scaled map (preferably 1” = 400’ scale) of the management unit identifying the area included in the alternate plan, and the location of all streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds, unstable slopes, existing or proposed roads, and proposed activities.
  • Documentation that all sites included in the plan share sufficient common characteristics to be considered together.

Under some conditions, DNR may require a description of the landowner’s proposed implementation schedule and monitoring strategy. Landowners may volunteer to develop the monitoring strategy or allow DNR to use its discretion.

The riparian functions that must be considered and addressed in an alternate plan are explained in Section 21 of the Forest Practices Board Manual. The section also includes two templates specifically for small forest landowners:

  • The Western Washington Overstocked Stand template is designed to increase riparian function in stands that have or will show signs of suppressed growth. The harvest strategies include a no-harvest zone and a thinning zone.
  •  The Western Washington Fixed Width Riparian Management Zones template offers small forest landowners a simplified “fixed width” riparian buffer option for Type S and F Waters in Western Washington. The buffer widths vary according to site class and range from 75 feet for site class V to 145 feet for site class I.

If correctly applied, these templates may not require an Interdisciplinary Team to visit the site or the level of documentation required for standard alternate plans.

Additional information on alternate plans can be found on the Small Forest Landowner Office website, by calling the Small Forest Landowner Office at (360) 902-1415, or contacting your DNR region office.

Marketplace Report – June 2014 Economic Forecast

David Chertudi, DNR Lead Economist

Tree Dollar SignU.S. Economy and Housing Market. While a harsh winter and business inventory adjustments caused the U.S. economy to shrink by 1.0 percent in the first quarter of 2014, most analysts expect growth to rally for the remainder of the year. Year-over-year GDP growth remains modest at just above two percent when averaged over the last four quarters ending in March. In October 2009 the unemployment rate peaked at 10.0%, but has slowly fallen to 6.3% as of April 2014. The housing market continues to show positive signs with new housing starts for 2013 up 18% over 2012 and 52% over 2011. Average U.S. housing prices have been trending upward since January of 2012. However, the U.S. economy still faces significant challenges – unemployment remains high and there are significant difficulties for younger graduates and workers, as well as the long term unemployed. While the financial and economic crises in Europe are improving, several European countries remain in recession and the crisis in Ukraine has introduced significant political and economic uncertainty. China’s economy continues to show signs of underlying problems. Finally, the U.S. government still has not implemented a coherent, growth-driven economic policy – which is unlikely to happen in the highly politicized environment of an election year.

Lumber and Log Prices. Lumber and log prices were up in 2013 and continue to improve. While it varied widely, Random Lengths’ Coast Dry Random and Stud composite lumber price averaged $370/mbf in 2013 – up 20% from the 2012 average of $309/mbf – and has averaged $384/mbf to date in 2014. Pacific Northwest log prices also moved up sharply after being fairly flat for 2011 and most of 2012, with the price for all grades of Doug-fir averaging $616 in April.

Pine Needle Casts

Amy Ramsey-Kroll, DNR Forest Pathologist

This spring DNR’s Forest Health section received numerous inquiries about the health of pine trees in eastern Washington. Concerned landowners have sent numerous pictures and samples from various locations across the state, from Cle Elum to Colville. Observations have included an abundance of red, dead, needles in the two year and older foliage, with concerns primarily focused on ponderosa pine. After looking over the pictures and samples, and visiting some of the areas in eastern Washington with the most dramatic symptoms, the cause appears to be Pine Needle Cast.

Symptoms of Pine Needle Cast in a ponderosa pine.  Notice the red, dead needles on the two-year old foliage.  Photo: A. Walker.

Symptoms of Pine Needle Cast in a ponderosa pine. Notice the red, dead needles on the two-year old foliage. Photo: A. Walker.

Pine Needle Cast is caused by fungi that infect the needles of the host trees. Multiple species of fungi can cause this infection, with Elytroderma, Lophodermella, Lophodermium, and Dothistroma species being the most common in our area. Susceptible foliage in the tree usually includes new and one-year old needles.

Population levels of needle cast fungi are cyclic and are strongly associated with local weather. Most needle cast fungi require cool, moist conditions to persist. Dry spring and fall months normally result in low levels of needle cast the following year, while wet spring and fall months normally result in higher levels of needle cast the following year. September 2013 was an unusually wet month across the state of Washington, providing ideal environmental conditions for new foliar fungal infections. If spring and fall this year are relatively dry, there will likely not be much needle cast observed next year.

Management Options

Needle casts rarely cause mortality in trees, but can reduce the growth of the host if infection levels are severe enough. Below are some management options to reduce potential growth impacts or address the aesthetic issue of Pine Needle Cast.

  • Leave the trees. Trees affected by needle casts will shed their foliage, usually during a large wind event or storm. The current red foliage will eventually fall off the host. As new foliage emerges, the green plant tissue will mask some of the red foliage remaining on the tree. While not all the red needle cast- infected foliage will be cast from the tree, the symptoms of the needle cast will not be as obvious and pronounced.
  • Remove infected trees. Infected trees may be cut in order to remove the visual impact of the disease. This is a high intensity management strategy, but one that can be used to achieve reduced stocking objectives in affected stands.
  • Low intensity prescribed fire. Needle cast fungi reside in the foliage, even after the needles have been shed from the tree. A low intensity ground based prescribed fire will reduce the amount of fungal inoculum present in the effected ponderosa pine stands, and therefore will reduce the amount of inoculum that could cause new infections.
  • Reduce the stocking in some of the stands to change the microenvironment conditions of the stand. If the basal area is reduced and space is created in between the crowns of trees, it will promote more air flow and likely drier conditions that are not conducive for foliar fungi germination. This provides a proactive approach for managing the disease over time.
  • Ensure seed zone of any planted ponderosa pine stock matches the area is it planted in. Genetic differences in host and pathogen can affect the amount of disease present. It’s always best to obtain tree and plant stock that is native and adapted to the specific area where it will be planted.

Healthy Forests include Wildlife Habitat

Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist

Complex forest structure.

Complex forest structure.

Historically, dry eastern Washington forests saw frequent low intensity fires that reduced stocking levels and maintained stand structures dominated by large overstory trees. In many places the result was a mosaic of large trees, scattered and in clumps, with frequent openings and areas of grass and shrub species such as choke cherry, elderberry, willow, buck brush, etc. Native wildlife species adapted to, and thrived in these conditions. However, for the last 100 or so years, humans have aggressively controlled the fire regime, leading to overstocked stands, less resiliency to drought, insects, and fire, and a decrease in wildlife habitat.

Simplified, park-like forest structure.

Simplified, park-like forest structure.

Today, we use words like “Forest Health” and “Fire Wise” to describe thinning and other management actions designed to improve stand health. However, when the treatment is too aggressive it results in simplified habitats that lack the structure needed by many of our native wildlife species.

Can you have a healthy, fire wise forest and promote habitat diversity? You bet! With a little additional planning, mechanical thinning can be used to promote wildlife habitat, enhance individual tree vigor and decrease fuel buildup. When you or your contractor lay out the unit:

  • Identify and mark important structural elements such as snags and downed logs for retention.
  • Define specific areas for different types of treatment.
  • Protect all of the large snags and logs.
  • Keep larger trees as foundational units in an irregular pattern, averaging the desired spacing.
  • Retain shrub (mid-canopy) habitat across the treated area to create and maintain a mixed habitat structure.
  • Utilize “Fire Wise” techniques around all structures.

Useful techniques include:

  • Targeting approximately 10% of the area in the unit for wildlife structures.

    Wildlife log pile.

    Wildlife log pile.

  • Leaving patches uncut between ½ to 1 ½ dominant tree heights for wildlife cover.
  • Locating and leaving particularly rich patches of native shrubs, emphasizing those that bear fruit like elderberry, chokecherry, and vine maple. If the shrubs are a little leggy, prune them or thin them minimally.
  • Placing leave patches in strategic manner to provide some screening for larger animals such as deer, elk and bear in the back portions of the treated areas.
  • Leaving the lower limbs on trees where the limbs aren’t associated with other ladder fuels.
  • Avoiding existing large wood with the machinery.
  • Aiming for two hard and two soft snags per acre. If they don’t exist, create them by cutting off the largest thinning trees (7” to 8” dbh) as high as the sawyer can reach. Remember – a tall stump is a short snag!
  • Using larger pieces of wood as bottom layers for constructed habitat piles. Try for a density of 2 to 3 piles per acre and place them away from roads and major access points. Dispose of the majority of smaller material and stack smaller diameter logs into piles of 3 to 8 pieces to create a large log surrogate.

    Southeast Region Landowner Assistance Manager Chuck Wytko and snag.

    Southeast Region Landowner Assistance Manager Chuck Wytko and snag.

  • Leaving a few patches of large leave trees with crowns within 3 feet of each other or touching to allow canopy wildlife species to travel easily between trees. This could be part of a leave clump or a small area in or adjacent to an opening.

Many species will benefit from these techniques including arboreal mammals (Douglas, red, western gray and flying squirrels), deer and elk, canopy dwelling neotropical migrants such as the western tanager, shrub loving songbirds (warblers, towhee), down log dependents such as fence lizards and chipmunks, and of course, woodpeckers and other cavity dwellers.

For more information, contact the DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist Ken Bevis at Ken.Bevis@dnr.wa.gov.

Upcoming Events, Workshops and New Publications

Workshops

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning – If you own wooded property, our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan for keeping your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.

Forest Owners Field Day – Field days feature a whole suite of our most popular forest stewardship workshops. The state’s top forestry specialists will be offering hands-on field sessions throughout the day on a variety of topics that will help you to better understand, protect, enhance, and enjoy your forest.

Managing and Monitoring for Biodiversity – If you are interested in how to manage your forest in an environmentally sensitive way, join us for this workshop. We’ll look at examples of ecological harvesting, and participants will practice using a basic monitoring tool newly developed by Northwest Natural Resource Group and the World Wildlife Fund to evaluate biodiversity conditions within managed forests. §  Tenino – Saturday August 2, 2014 from 10 am to 2 p.m. at the Heernett Environmental Foundation, 7332 Churchill Rd, SE. Please bring lunch. To reserve your spot, contact Meagan at meagan@nnrg.org, or (503) 545-8685. Limited to 25 participants.

Timber Cruising and Forest Inventory – This program will provide basic knowledge and skills needed to cruise stands of trees and create a reliable forest inventory. We’ll answer the question, “why cruise”, and talk about cruising principles, types of cruises, cruise methods, designing a cruise and calculations.

  • Walla Walla – Wednesday July 9, 2014 5 pm, to 8 pm and Thursday July 10, 2014 9 am to 2 pm (field). Pre-registration required.

Tree School - The Spokane Conservation District and WSU Spokane County Extension are planning an educational conference for foresters, arborists, small forestland owners and backyard gardeners who want to expand their skills and knowledge. Participants will choose from 16 course offerings and attend up to six

  • Spokane – Saturday August 16, 2014. Registration required.

On-line Classes

Forest Stewardship University offers a complete online education experience, featuring over 20 mini-courses ranging from forest health to taxes.

New Publications 

Forestry Education and Assistance for Washington Forest Landowners – A directory of key agencies and contacts for forest owners throughout Washington.

Consulting Foresters Directory – A listing of private consultants that can help you carry out forest management activities.

Small-scale Sawmill Directory – These databases provide a partial listing of sawmills that accept small quantities of logs:

Woodland Fish and Wildlife:

Message from Tami Miketa, Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office – Forest Owner’s Field Days

This summer, family forest landowners have another unique opportunity heading their way. Washington State University Extension and DNR are co-sponsoring and hosting two Forest Owner’s Field Days – one in western Washington and one in eastern Washington.

6063134763_98e2916bb3_oStewarding land can be both rewarding and challenging, with success dependent on the decisions and actions you take. Attending the Forest Owner’s Field Day will prepare you to develop a management plan for your woodlands and to conduct activities that will help you to reduce risks and protect your financial investment.

Led by recognized experts in forest management, wildlife habitat, and other forest stewardship disciplines, this “out-in-the-woods” educational event will provide useful and unbiased information intended to meet landowners’ needs whether they own five or more than 500 acres. Participants can choose from a variety of classes and activities taught by specialists in forest health, wildlife habitat, weed control, wildfire protection, thinning and pruning, landowner assistance programs, timber and non-timber forest products, using global positioning systems, chainsaw safety and maintenance, forestry taxes, and forestland security and safety. Presenters will be available to answer questions specific to your property situation. Youth activities, exhibitors and demonstrations will be available throughout the day.DSC00215

The eastern Washington Forest Owner’s Field Day will be held on Saturday, June 21, from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm at the Horsmann Hills Farm near Newport, Washington. The location is within easy driving distance from Kootenai, Bonner, Stevens, Ferry, and Spokane counties.

The fee for those who register by Friday, June 13, is $20 per person or $30 for a family of two or more. After that the fee is $30 per person or $40 per family. An optional BBQ lunch will be available for $10 per person. Lunch reservations must be received by June 13.

The western Washington Forest Owner’s Field Day will be held August 9th at a location that is yet to be finalized. More to come on this!

So mark your calendars and come join the more than 10,500 satisfied families who have already experienced these Field Day events across the state!

For more information contact WSU Extension Forester Andy Perleberg at 509-667-6540 or by email at andyp@wsu.edu.